Many people probably only know turmeric as an ingredient in curry spice mixtures. However, the turmeric plant has long been revered as a medicinal plant in Asia because of its healing ingredient curcumin. It affects the digestive, hair, skin health, and has a lot of benefits. In recent years, the yellow tuber has slowly found its way to the USA and has since become known as a new superfood.
In this article, you will learn what the plant really “has on it” and which statements are just marketing. We will also answer any questions you may have about dosage and clarify which groups of people are more likely to suffer adverse effects from turmeric.
The most important facts in brief
- Turmeric has been an integral part of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for many centuries. Recently, the yellow, ginger-like tuber has also found its way to us and is traded as a superfood. It is considered antioxidant, digestive, and anti-inflammatory.
- A regular intake of turmeric can remedy digestive disorders and prevent gastrointestinal diseases. Studies even show that turmeric can be preventive against Alzheimer’s disease. In any case, it is definitely advisable for everyone to include more turmeric in their diet.
- Curcumin, the most significant ingredient, can be taken in various forms. It is not water-soluble and therefore can only be absorbed by the body in doses. To support the absorption, it is recommended to take it with pepper and some oil.
Turmeric: The yellow superfood
More and more often, one hears about the healing power of the yellow tuber called turmeric. According to some reports, it can even cure cancer. Whether this is really true and what the yellow root is all about, you will learn in the following paragraphs.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is also called yellow ginger, turmeric, or saffron root and is a plant species that belongs to the ginger family. Only its rootstock is used. This is very similar to its better-known relative, ginger, but turmeric is intensely yellow and is used fresh and dried as a spice and as a dye.
Turmeric is an essential spice in Asian cuisine.
The yellow plant originates from India and Southeast Asia – after all, it requires year-round temperatures of 20 to 30 degrees Celsius as well as sufficient precipitation.
In our country, turmeric is mainly known as one of the main ingredients of curry spice mixtures. In fact, it is the color power of the turmeric root that gives curry its intense yellow color.
What effect does turmeric have on the body?
For thousands of years, turmeric has been used as a healing agent in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. In addition, a number of studies have appeared in recent years showing that turmeric has many healing properties.
The oil of the plant already has an anti-inflammatory effect, but even more effective and significant is curcumin, the most important ingredient of the traditional medicinal plant. Curcumin is mainly used as an active ingredient in medicines and contains many anti-inflammatory and health-promoting effects.
The applications of turmeric are extremely diverse. Basically, it is considered antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
- Digestive disorders: A positive effect on digestion is now undisputed. Minor complaints such as flatulence or a feeling of fullness after eating can be alleviated or avoided by turmeric.
- Gastrointestinal disorders: Curcumin strengthens the immune system and is extremely effective for vascular health. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can be curative or preventive for gastrointestinal diseases.
- Cancer: Studies with cancer cells show that turmeric can inhibit cancer growth and make cancer cells more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy. Nevertheless, there are no conclusive studies that have observed the same in humans. The problem lies in the chemical structure of the yellow tuber – turmeric is poorly soluble in water and thus can only be absorbed by the human body in small doses. Therefore, it must be said that it has not been sufficiently studied to what extent the intake of turmeric is effective against cancer. (Source).
- Alzheimer’s disease/dementia: Studies show efficacy in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. (Source).
- Obesity: Turmeric can be supportive in dieting. Taking it alone is not enough to lose any extra kilos, but the yellow spice gets the digestion going and can prevent new fat accumulation.
What are the nutritional values of turmeric?
The turmeric plant has a variety of valuable vitamins and nutrients. The exact nutritional values are as follows:
|Nutritional values||Nutritional values per 100 g turmeric|
|Calorific value||1491 kJ / 356 kcal|
|Thereof sugar||57,6 g|
|Dietary fiber||6,7 g|
In addition, in turmeric can be found doses of vitamin C, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium.
What are the ingredients of turmeric?
As mentioned earlier, the most significant ingredient in the turmeric plant is curcumin. This makes up about five percent of the yellow root and gives it its distinctive color. Curcumin is insoluble in water and is therefore very difficult for the body to absorb.
Curcumin is what gives turmeric its healing properties.
To aid absorption, turmeric can be taken together with some oil and black pepper. The active ingredient of which is called piperine and increases the absorption of various substances.
In addition, it contains essential oils, resins, proteins, and sugar compounds. However, these do not possess any medicinal properties worth mentioning.
What are the different forms of turmeric?
In dietary supplements, completely different ingredients are used, depending on the product and supplier.
Either pure turmeric powder, not further defined “turmeric extracts”, curcuminoids including curcumin, curcumin alone – or variants with various additives such as extract of black pepper (piperine), vitamins (e.g. vitamin D), vitamin-like substances such as choline or many other herbal additives.
Due to the large differences in composition, the individual products are difficult to compare with each other.
- Turmeric capsules
There is a veritable myriad of different turmeric capsules from many different manufacturers available on the market. To find your way through the turmeric jungle, it is crucial to pay attention to the right ingredients.
These should not receive any cheap fillers or separators, but rather pure curcumin and, ideally, additional pepper or piperine to support the absorption capacity of the human body.
- Turmeric powder
Turmeric can also be easily purchased as a spice powder in any well-stocked supermarket. This is primarily used in Indian cuisine, but can also be added to other dishes and drinks.
Curry spice mixtures also contain a certain amount of turmeric. However, pure turmeric is more effective because you absorb more of the important ingredient curcumin.
- Turmeric drinks
Turmeric tea can be bought ready-made in tea bags and only infused with water at home, as well as fresh and prepared like ginger tea.
In addition to the more familiar ginger shots, turmeric shots are now often available in supermarkets, juice bars, and cafes. You can also prepare them yourself very easily with the help of a juicer. In this way, the yellow root can be absorbed in a very high concentration, even if orange or apple juice is usually added for flavor purposes.
Turmeric has now also established itself in the world of milk drinks. The so-called golden milk, or turmeric latte, consists of ginger and turmeric pieces. The healthy hot drink can already be purchased in some hip cafés.
How should turmeric be dosed?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the recommended daily dose is up to three grams of turmeric powder from the dried rhizome. This corresponds to a daily dose of about 120 to 200 milligrams of curcumin, depending on the curcumin content of the turmeric ingested. However, this recommendation does not refer to the treatment of specific diseases but can be taken as a preventive measure without time restrictions.
A correspondingly higher dosage for the treatment of certain disease symptoms should in any case be discussed in advance with the responsible physician. If one takes turmeric capsules, the dosage is relatively easy to control. Otherwise, the yellow powder can simply be ingested with food.
How should turmeric be taken?
As mentioned earlier, turmeric is not water-soluble and therefore can only be absorbed by the body in very small doses.
To support this, intake in combination with pepper is advisable.
Piperine, an active ingredient in black pepper, ensures that humans can absorb curcumin 20 times better. A pinch of pepper is already sufficient.
It is also advisable to take a small amount of vegetable oil to support the body’s ability to absorb curcumin. Curcumin is not water-soluble, but it is fat-soluble. When using fresh turmeric, the natural oils help with absorption and there is no need to add additional oil.
What should be considered when taking turmeric?
Turmeric is generally considered to be very well-tolerated and rarely causes adverse effects. However, there are certain groups of people who do not tolerate turmeric products and should therefore avoid them:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- People who take blood-thinning medications.
- Persons suffering from gallstones.
However, turmeric contained in dishes is so unremarkable that even these groups of people should not have any problems with it.
What side effects can turmeric cause?
At a normal dosage, as described above, practically no side effects of turmeric are known. These only occur when too high doses are taken over a long period of time. In principle, therefore, turmeric can be taken without hesitation and without time restrictions.
Possible symptoms of too high a dosage are stomach pain, a dry mouth, flatulence, or allergic skin reactions.
Complaints have already been observed in the range of 180 milligrams of curcumin. So if for any reason you plan to take higher doses of turmeric, be sure to discuss this with a doctor first.
The added piperine can also often cause intolerance. If this is the case, you can always use turmeric products without piperine.
All in all, turmeric really deserves the current hype. The plant is a true superfood – even if the cancer-curing effect has still not been scientifically confirmed. So that means we should all try to incorporate more turmeric into our diets, whether through turmeric capsules, fresh turmeric, turmeric powder, or in foods and drinks.
The dosage doesn’t matter that much, it’s only at really high dosages that side effects have been discovered. However, you should make sure that you take high-quality products and foods, preferably organic. This way you ensure that you really benefit from the healing powers of the yellow tuber.